As the government continues to work out ways to reduce the rate of youth unemployment in the country, John Oba, in this piece suggests that partnership with foundations targeted at the youth like the National Youth Service Corps scheme, has the potentials of bringing lasting solution to the problem.
The current economic situation in the country as well as efforts to put it back on track, demands that the youth at all levels must be involved as new approaches are designed.
It is time the nation’s economic planners changed the mindset belief that most young people only want to get by on charity. On the contrary, the truth is that they want a sustainable way of making a living.
Given the tools and resources, they are intelligent and strong enough to become successful entrepreneurs. All it takes is for the government, private sector and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) to help them generate a consistent income to guarantee their own financial security and economic stability. The Nigerian economic can grow as it ought to, according to Kickstart, a nonprofit organisation that fights poverty when it is realised that “Individual ownership is the key to sustainable economic development.”
However, it is, also, about time the youth quit being satisfied with just acting as the clientele of social ventures. They should participate actively in improving their own lives by getting involved in entrepreneurship.
This is why the training of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members on entrepreneurship venture during their one year service period and the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an NGO like the TY Danjuman foundation should be seen by the youth as an ample opportunity for them to jumpstart their innovativeness.
The Federal Government through the Ministry of Youth Development recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the TY Danjuman Foundation on Agro business grant worth between N2 million to N3million.
The MoU was part of the ministry’s effort to create opportunities for the corps members to be empowered and self-employed.
According to the minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the grant is a specialised facility by the ministry and the foundation is focused on creating the incentive and motivation for the NYSC graduates to be self reliant through Agro-business. The grant is set to equip corps members with self employment skills, providing financial and technical support for youth led agricultural projects and creating awareness among them of the opportunities that exist in agriculture.
Speaking, the minister said: “What is most important is the principle behind the project, we have agreed to give grant to corps members who want to do agro business and they will get a grant of between N2million and N3 million each. But we don’t know how many corps members will apply and submit viable proposals. So, it could be any amount of money. It would be demand driven, we cannot sit here and begin to say this is how much that would be committed, if we do that we are already excluding all the other possibilities.”
He said that the biggest challenge facing countries of the world today is how to provide employment for young people. The Ministry recognises this as the most important responsibility that it has and would continue to seek developmental strategies to create opportunities for young people, not only to give employment but to also create employment opportunities.
“We also know that our ability to do it depends on our strength of partnership and collaboration. We are going to succeed to the extent that we are able to create opportunities for us to tap into other people’s experience and expertise. Because, as a ministry, we don’t have the ability to create jobs ourselves but what we can do is to provide the platform, energy and the focus using the demography that we have in our hand,” he said.
Also the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the foundation, Ms Thelma Ekiyor, stated that the project was expected to be a continues programme even as she promised that the Corps members whose proposals were selected would be trained in June this year before the money would be disbursed.
“The NYSC agro business grant scheme will be implemented under the TY Danjuman Foundation, what we decided to do was to start up with the pilot in 2012 and see how that will develop. Subsequently, we will roll it out throughout the country. So even though it’s pilot, we have no desire to end it, we see it as the beginning of a very constructive relationship with the ministry as an institution and we want to go to other parts of Nigeria, and we look forward to other collaboration that the ministry might deem relevant for the foundation,” she explained.
Explaining the workings of the organization, Ekiyor said: “Under our income generation scheme, we focus on youth initiatives, how we can help Nigerian youth with entrepreneurial initiatives as well as training. It is under the programme that we form this partnership with the Ministry of Youth Development. We can’t replace the government because the role of government is central in the country’s development. We intend to look at ways of collaborating with government and this is one of the ways.
On the amount to be spent, she said that the foundation intended not to mention any amount, because that would be pre-empting the project and added that it depended on the proposals that were received as the foundation didn’t just want to disburse fund for the fun of it. That it would wait for the proposals, and their viabilities.
The project has started with the call for proposal and in June we will choose the finalist and take them for training. The project will be monitored jointly by the ministry and the foundation.
Ekiyor further open the eyes of those present at the event to the usefulness of foundations and how government at all levels could partner with them to generate employment for the youth. She said: “In Nigeria, though we have several foundations, but we have not fully tapped into their potentials” she lamented.
That brings to mind several grants by foreign governments and organisations approved for development programmes such as youth empowerment, agriculture and different skills acquisition project proposed and entered into by the Federal Government but with no visible impart as they are mostly wasted on white elephant projects that have no bearing on its purpose.
The British government approval of N61bn for development programmes in Nigeria recently and the German provision of N3 billion for renewable energy and job creation as revealed by Minister for National Planning, Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman are good examples.
The programmes, he said, were designed to support the government’s efforts to tackle the challenges of poverty and create a more enabling environment for stability, growth and development in Nigeria. But one of the main ways of implementing this which has just be discovered by the Youth Minister is through the NYSC scheme.
Also the agreement by the Federal Government for the training of Nigerians in the field of entrepreneurship entered into by the Minister of Finance that commits the Entrepreneurship Development Centre of the Pan African University, Lagos, to train Nigerians who want to go into business, on the basics of entrepreneurship is another strategic programme that would have carried the corps members along. The Grooming Enterprise Leadership programme financed by the World Bank as a pilot programme should serve as another means of training the corps members while grant is given to the successful ones and serve as a way of reducing joblessness among the target group.
It is time the government tailored the current reform of the scheme toward making it the hub of skill development in technological ventures like in Japan in a manner that will impart in the country’s development, economic and technology wise.